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The cookies might have come in handy for the linemen during their Thursday-night cram session. They arrived at their meeting room at seven and stayed until almost 10, "looking for tendencies, any little thing that could help us out," said left guard Mike Johnson. "And it did help a couple of times."
Johnson plays inside James Carpenter, a junior left tackle whose job it has been to replace Andre Smith. No big deal; all Smith did last year was win the Outland Trophy. To Johnson's right is the squat, intense William Vlachos, who took over at center for another '08 All-America, Antoine Caldwell. With three first-year starters, the 'Bama line has kept the bad guys off the newbie quarterback (McElroy has been sacked 13 times) and paved the way for the probable Heisman winner, who would be the program's first. Asked to explain the Tide's big night on offense, Meyer reflected for a moment, then answered, "I think it came down to missed tackles."
What it came down to was Florida's defenders failing to get off of blocks thrown by this bunch of no-names. While it's impossible to pinpoint when Alabama became the SEC's Alpha team, the transfer of power took place sometime during the clock-draining, morale-siphoning 17-play, 88-yard epoch of a drive that resulted in the Tide's final touchdown.
With 'Bama on the Gators' two-yard line on the second play of the fourth quarter, the call went up on the Crimson sideline for the Big Black personnel group—three tight ends and Cody, who lined up as a blocking back. Cody's glancing block on 202-pound safety Will Hill (who threw himself in reverse, wanting no part of that collision) created a sufficient crease for Ingram to break the plane.
Tebow was intercepted in the end zone on Florida's next possession—a leaping snag by cornerback Javier Arenas. The Gators got the ball back one last time, only to lose it on downs, as Tebow's pass to David Nelson fell incomplete.
Alabama ran the final 7:28 off the clock. Florida could not get the Tide offense off the field. It was during this figurative emasculation that Tebow was overcome with emotion. Half the stadium shared his misery; the other half reveled in it. Half the fans mourned the end of an era. The other half celebrated a statement, a sea change, a return to glory. A marvel.
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